HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) — A sailor fatally shot last week in Norfolk, Va., was honored as a hometown hero Thursday at a chilly, candlelight service in Hagerstown’s City Park.
About 70 people, mostly in their 20s, filled metal benches to offer support and condolences to Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Mark Mayo’s parents and three siblings, seated in the park’s bandshell. Two poster-sized photos of Mayo in uniform flanked the speaker’s podium near a bunch of blue-and-white balloons — the colors of Williamsport High School, where Mayo was a wrestling star, and the Dallas Cowboys, represented by a team blanket draped over an empty chair.
Mayo’s boyhood pastor, the Rev. Paul Berry, told the crowd that Mayo, like Jesus, deliberately sacrificed himself March 24 when he saved another sailor by jumping between her and a civilian gunman who was trying to board the destroyer USS Mahan at Naval Station Norfolk.
“Mark knew exactly what he was doing. He laid his life down; nobody took it,” Berry said.
The gunman, truck driver Jeffrey Savage, was killed by Navy security forces responding to the scene.
Mayo’s brother Terrail Blair, 27, said he was proud of his 24-year-old brother’s heroism but sorry he wasn’t able to protect him, as he had when they were boys.
“I always felt as though he was a baby to me,” Blair said. “I didn’t let nobody come close to Mark.”
Before the service, Blair said his brother’s death has made him feel connected to the families of the soldiers killed Wednesday in a shooting at Fort Hood, Texas.
“That touched me,” Blair said. “I look at it, like, man, somebody else is going to have that to deal with. It’s hard. I send my strength to them.”
U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., sent condolences to Mayo’s parents, Sharon Blair and Decondi Mayo, in a letter read aloud by the senator’s aide Juliana Albowicz.
“The people of the United States are grateful for the sacrifice your family has made on our behalf,” she read. “We will remember his life as God’s blessing on all of us.”
The Navy plans a memorial service for Mayo in Norfolk on Monday. A funeral is scheduled April 11 in Washington, D.C., where the family lived before moving to Hagerstown in 1998.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)